September 27, 2021
Why B2B Marketers Should Invest in ABM Technology
An effective B2B lead generation program requires constant communication and collaboration between Sales and Marketing teams. Several B2B advertisers learned this lesson in 2020 – as deals came fewer and farther between, Sales and Marketing needed to be laser focused together on a single goal and working in tandem toward that goal.
Metric Theory has particularly strong expertise in partnering with B2B advertisers to optimize paid media campaigns toward quality leads and closed deals. In my experience, the ones that realize the full potential of their marketing are those that do much of their planning in collaboration with sales. Below are the key ways I’ve seen the most effective B2B marketers work with their sales teams.
Marketing is the engine feeding the Sales team the leads they need to close deals. If there isn’t an established line of communication between the two functions, you’re missing out on a valuable feedback loop. Sales teams are able to anecdotally comment on lead quality, provide insight as to what sales prospects are asking for (which can inform ad copy), and even provide ideas for new keyword categories or audience targets. When the VP of sales started joining weekly calls between Metric Theory and the demand gen team for one of our B2B SaaS companies, we instantly started receiving richer feedback on the quality of leads and learned helpful context that helped us understand lead flow (like when their top salesperson took a 3-week vacation). That information was a game changer for optimizing our paid search and social campaigns to lead quality.
Your Marketing team may understand that they need to optimize paid campaigns to back-end lead quality metrics. Perhaps they’ve settled on Sales- Qualified Leads (SQLs) and cost per SQL as the primary KPIs. But if they don’t understand exactly how a lead SQLs, you may run into issues down the line.
For example, if a SaaS company requires leads to have 500+ employees to SQL, the Marketing team can adjust campaigns to target those leads and reduce spend on prospects with fewer than 500 employees, improving the cost per SQL. They can layer audience targeting on paid search, change company size targets on paid social, or adjust ad copy to appeal more to 500+ employee prospects.
And there will be times when Sales teams change the definition of an SQL without informing the Marketing team, leading to potentially huge changes in Marketing performance. Always a fun fire drill! The better the two departments understand each other, the more likely you’ll avoid this.
Assuming you are optimizing to back-end lead quality metrics such as MQLs, SQLs, Closed/Won, ARR acquired, etc. (as you should be), Sales will impact your Marketing KPIs. Ramping up marketing budgets to double Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) sounds like a great plan, but what if you don’t have the sales headcount to work the net additional leads? Alternatively, if your sales team can hit their quota through cross-sells/renewals, they may opt not to work the inbound leads from digital marketing. This isn’t a lead quality issue for paid media, but a process issue for Sales.
For one B2B advertiser, we used to spend one week every May frantically trying to diagnose a sudden and substantial apparent drop in lead quality that would resolve itself over the next week. It wasn’t until the third year of working together we learned that they send the top performing half of their sales team to the Caribbean every year during that week.
It’s a beautiful partnership – Marketing brings in front-end leads, and Sales closes them into deals and revenue for the company. But not all leads brought in by Marketing are ready to sign on the dotted line. A robust paid media plan will include middle and top of funnel efforts that introduce potential customers to your product early in their research and consideration process.
If those leads are left to languish, they will not convert to deals, and that may not be a reflection of a Marketing failure. A robust nurture program includes sales outreach (but not too much), tailored content like whitepapers or case studies, and remarketing campaigns to re-engage leads. Marketing and Sales both play a role in nurturing leads. Ignoring leads until they’re ready to talk to a sales rep is leaving deals on the table for your competitors to snatch up.
Leadership may be measuring Marketing success on closed deals and revenue attributable to their managed channels. Sales may want Marketing to send them as many front-end leads or “at-bats” as possible. These goals can be at odds.
Oftentimes the leads most likely to convert into deals are more expensive, meaning Marketing can drive fewer of them within their budget. Likewise, an influx of low-quality inbound leads from Marketing could waste busy sales reps’ valuable time. Free-flowing communication between Sales and Marketing (see tip #1) will help ensure both functions are driving toward the same goal.
For many B2B advertisers, the path to conversion for a lead is long and involves many touchpoints – perhaps an SEM ad, email nurture, a trade show, and a LinkedIn retargeting ad. Without an expensive multi-touch attribution software, most advertisers are left to assign lead source based on the first interaction or the most recent interaction. Both have their drawbacks, and looking at both is better than looking at just one.
Even advanced B2B marketing operations deal with tracking issues, like when a lead source in a CRM system is overwritten as a lead continues to interact with your brand and move down the funnel toward a closed deal. A lead that used to be attributed to a Marketing channel may become assigned to an organic or nurture source. Many B2B advertisers I’ve worked with have custom rules about which lead sources can overwrite other sources and when. Marketing needs to fully understand these rules and the impact they can have on marketing KPIs, particularly when viewing historical data.
For B2B companies, Marketing and Sales are both crucial functions in how a prospect interacts with the brand and eventually converts to closed revenue. The healthiest paid media programs I’ve overseen involve frequent communication with Sales and start with a thorough understanding of the Sales process and associated metrics. If you can work toward these six key areas of collaboration, you’re well on your way to more effective Marketing campaigns.
If your digital marketing agency has never asked you about how they can partner with Sales and optimize to back-end lead quality metrics, talk to Metric Theory today!